top of page
  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Jallianwala Bagh massacre left a permanent scar on Indo-British relations and Indians committed to independence from the British. This incident promoted nationalism and Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee came into being in Punjab to get control of Gurudwara from pro-British mahants. It accelerated the movement of freedom fighters throughout India and other countries.

During World War 1, India contributed to the British war by providing men and resources. Millions of soldiers and laborers served in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, while both the Indian administration and princes sent a large supply of food, money, and ammunition. However, Punjab and Bengal remained sources of anticolonial activities by the Congress and Ghadar party. Revolutionary attacks in Bengal, associated increasingly with disturbance in Punjab, were significant enough to paralyze the regional administration. Of these, a mutiny in the British Indian Army planned for February 1915 and Ghadar movement were the most prominent amongst a number of plots formulated between 1914 to 1917 by the Indian nationalists in India, the United States, and Germany. In the scenario of the threat from the militants' movement in India, Defence Act 1915 was passed limiting civil and political liberties. Michael O Dwyer, Lieutenant Governer was the strongest proponent of the Act due to the Ghadary threat in the province.

By the Wold War’s end, expectations were high among the Indian people to get more political autonomy. Instead, however, Rowlatt Act was passed in early 1919 by the British government which essentially extended the repressive wartime measures. The Acts were met by widespread anger and discontent among Indians, notably in the Punjab region. Mahatma Gandhi in early April called for a one-day general strike throughout the country. In Amritsar prominent leaders like Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew were arrested which sparked a violent protest on April 10, in which soldiers fired upon civilians, government banks were looted and burned, and several foreign nationals were killed and Christian missionaries were severely beat. The administration put a ban on public gatherings. Miles Irving was the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar.

By April 13, most of Punjab was under martial law, gatherings of more than 4 people were banned. On the evening of April 12, the leaders of the protest in Amritsar held a meeting at the Hindu College and announced a public protest meeting would be held at 16:30 the following day at Jallianwala Bagh to be organized by Muhammad Bashir and chaired by a senior Congress party leader Lal Kanhylal Bhatia to protest against Rowlatt Act and the detention of Satyapal and Kitchlew. The city police closed the horse and cattle fair at 14:00 that afternoon, resulting in a large number of people drifting into the Jallianwala Bagh. People worshiped Basaki at Golden Temple and were passing through Jallianwala Bagh on their way home.

At 17:30 Dyer reached there with a group of 50 troops, (25 Gurkhas of 1/9 Gurkhas Rifles, 25 Pathans and Baluch, and 59 Sindh Rifles ) and two armed cars. Dyer, without warning the crowd to disperse, blocked the main exit and fired 1650 rounds in 8 minutes, and stopped only when ammunition was exhausted. About 10 to 20 thousand people were there in the Jallianwala Bagh. He stated later that this act was not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience. An estimated 379 people were killed and about 1200 more were wounded. After they ceased firing, the troops immediately withdrew from the place, leaving behind the dead and wounded, and many more wounded people died during the night. Tagore renounced his Knighthood and Jinnah resigned from his Bombay seat when he found out about the massacre in Amritsar.

In 1920, the Indian government ( The Hunter Commission ) ordered Dyer to resign from the military for his actions. Many Britishers condemned Dyer’s actions including Winston Churchill, but the House of Lords praised Dyer and a large fund was raised by Dyer’s sympathizers and presented to him. Michael O Dyer, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, was believed to have been the main planner of the massacre. In March 1940, at Caxton Hall in London, Sardar Udham Singh, an Indian independence activist from village Sunam who had witnessed the event in Amritsar and had himself been wounded, shot and killed Michael O Dwyer. Sardar Udham Singh was hanged for the murder on July 31, 1940. Sardar Udham Singh had told the court at his trial as given below.

“I did it because I have a grudge against him. He deserved it. He was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him. For all of 20 years, I have been trying to wreak vengeance. I am happy that I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country. I have seen my people starving in India under British rule. I have been motivated against this, it was my duty. What great honor could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland."

Shortly after the massacre, the pro-British mahants/officials of Golden Temple in Amritsar conferred upon Brigadier Dyer the Saropa which resulted in sending shock waves among the Sikh community. On October 12, 1920 students and faculty of the Khalsa College Amritsar called a meeting to strengthen the Nationalist Movement and the result was the formation of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee on November 15, 1920, to manage and implement reforms in Sikh shrines. This committee ( SGPC ) ultimately got control of Sikh shrines after a continuous struggle.

Udham Singh ( December 26, 1899, to July 31, 1940 ) was an Indian revolutionary belonging to the Ghadar Party, best known for his assassination of Michael O Dwyer in London. He was born into a Sikh family as Sher Singh at Village Sunam, Sangrur district of Punjab, India. His mother died when he was an infant and his father Tehal Singh, died some years later. After his father’s death, Singh and his elder brother, Muktiar Singh were taken in by the Central Khalsa Orphanage Putligarh in Amritsar where he received the name of Udham Singh. He passed his matriculation examination in 1918 and left the Orphanage in 1919. Udham Singh was involved in revolutionary politics and was deeply influenced by Sardar Bhagat Singh and his revolutionary group. In 1924, he was involved with the Ghadar Party, organizing Indians overseas towards overthrowing colonial rule. In 1927, he returned to India with 25 associates, revolvers, and ammunition on order from Sardar Bhagat Singh. Soon after he was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in jail. Upon his release from prison in 1931, he escaped to Germany and reached London in 1934 where he found employment. He formed a plan to assassinate Michael O Dwyer and did it.

41 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

The Punjabi Language

Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language native to the region of Pakistan and India. It is one of the most widely spoken native languages. Over 95% of people who speak Punjabi as their first language live in


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page